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Cleanaway fined over Adelaide chemical fire (Media release)

19 April 2017

Waste management company Cleanaway has been convicted and fined $650,000 over a chemical fire in Adelaide that injured an employee.

Judge Geraldine Davison handed down the penalty in the District Court of South Australia following an investigation by federal work health and safety regulator Comcare.

Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd had pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing in its duty to ensure the health and safety of workers under the Commonwealth Work Health and Safety Act.

The fire happened at the company’s Wingfield Chemical Waste Processing Plant near Port Adelaide on 25 July 2013.

Workers were conducting Cleanaway’s first production-scale trial to distil a new industrial solvent from a chemical mixture when there was a loud explosive rush of air followed by a large flame emanating from the large metal still.

A worker standing around five metres away from the still was knocked to the ground by the force of the fire. He was treated in hospital for minor injuries.

In sentencing, Judge Davison said that workers had very limited information about the new product and Cleanaway did not provide all the technical information to the workers on the ground.

Her Honour stated that in determining the sentence she took into account the gravity of the offence and considered there to be a high degree of culpability.

Comcare Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Taylor said the incident exposed workers to avoidable risks.

“The worker’s injuries could have been significantly worse and other staff could have been exposed to the same risk of serious injury,” Ms Taylor said.

“Today’s penalty is a reminder of the importance of ensuring workers get all the information they need to do their jobs safely.”

Cleanaway Operations Pty Ltd, formerly Transpacific Industries Pty Ltd, has been a self-insured licensee in the Comcare scheme since 2008.

Media contact:
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Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019

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